Everything changed at 18 months. First, Luna met all her milestones and never was delayed when she was an infant. I was in the process of changing jobs where I would work more hours, beginning college full-time, and moving and buying a house with my boyfriend, now husband. We have started potty training Luna but stopped because of all the changes and decided to wait until things settled down not to overwhelm and make her, by association, hate using the potty. During the moving process, we were moving in with a friend who’s like a family to my daughter and me until our home closed. Also, shortly after moving, I left the job because it was too stressful, and my plate was so full I was sick with a head cold nonstop right during the start of covid. Luna’s communication skills stopped and reverted. Previously Luna’s speech was progressing normally, so I thought she reverted because of all the changes. 

Luna had her eighteen-month check-up, and the doctor noted my concerns about her speech skills just stopped. The doctor referred her to a speech therapist and a developmental pediatrician to evaluate Luna. I thought speech therapy would help her catch up, and she won’t need the evaluation because Luna is just stressed from all the changes. Her evaluation had a waiting list of a year. By then, I was sure Luna would be back to normal. 

During her speech therapy, Luna didn’t talk to her therapist. She would barely interact with her therapist. However, in using the speech therapist’s suggestions of giving Luna choices and labeling in detail what she was doing, her speech was improving slowly. I didn’t think anything about it. 

By the time it hit Luna’s evaluation, she had become a big sister and had a stepdad, which helped improve her speech more. This evaluation was play-based and observation. The doctor was over an hour away during Luna’s lunch and into her naptime. At the end of the assessment, I told the doctor that Luna was tired, hungry, and not a fan of strangers, so she wasn’t completely herself. The doctor then said that Luna has autism level 2, a sensory disorder, and recessive and expressive language delay. The spinning, playing with the reusable straws while teething, flapping of hands, playing with plastic water bottles, the sudden drop of speech, the need to have a routine, and exploring her senses were some of her signs. I had a reason for every one of those signs, like the flapping of her hands when she was excited and the exploring her senses was just playing. 

The doctor gave me a huge folder of information and programs and referred Luna to get ABA Therapy, Applied Behavioral Analysis, and OT, Occupational Therapy. This folder had ABA Therapists, programs like horseback riding, early intervention, special education preschool, and information about Autism. On the way home, I called my husband and told him about Luna’s diagnosis. He was with the baby and our family friend who was watching her. I reassured him that I was okay and did the same to our friends. The rest of the day was a normal day. 

I hit the ground running and dug into the folder. I looked for an ABA therapist and got her into OT at the same place where she gets her speech therapy. I looked into the programs signing up for things in the area and starting her into early intervention and special education preschool. I told her speech therapist at her next appointment, and he said something like, we aren’t too surprised we thought this was coming. 

It didn’t hit me until a week later. I cried off and on for a couple of days after everyone was asleep. I was grieving the future and expectations I had in mind for Luna. It still stings when seeing other children younger than Luna or around her same age who masters milestones that she doesn’t do or is still learning. 

This all was about six months ago. I’m still learning about Luna’s diagnosis and how to help her.